When I was growing up in Sweden, my family would spend many lovely summer days at my grandparents’ home in the small town of Rappestad. Us kids literally lived outside and were free to explore the nature around us. The property had every fruit tree imaginable (at least that grow at that latitude), an abundance of berry bushes ranging from raspberries to gooseberries, and a large vegetable garden.
Here I learned how to pull little carrots out of the ground to provide more space for the remaining ones and that it’s a good idea to perform a worm search before popping a raspberry into ones mouth. We had big family get-togethers where everybody would come and pick berries for a couple of days. The raspberries, currants, strawberries, and gooseberries soon turned into jars of jam and jelly, saft (a sweet fruit drink), or were simply stored in the freezer for winter desserts. Later in the fall, we would come back for an apple picking extravaganza. In the weeks that followed, my parents would make apple sauce and fill our larder with enough jars to last until next fall.
I assumed all raspberry jam and apple sauce tasted fabulous, because all I ever knew was the home-made variety with three ingredients. When I moved to the United States, I discovered that you could buy these products in the grocery store. “Wow! Why did we spend all that time canning and juicing if somebody else could do it for you?” I naively wondered. Then I tasted the stuff and I understood.
For years now, I’ve been making do with high fructose corn syrup-filled jams and tasteless apple sauce, because I haven’t taken the time to find anything better (or make it myself). However, recently, I found some locally produced preserves at the neighborhood co-op. I had kind of forgotten about it until yesterday, when I pulled out the Raspberry Rhubarb Wisconsin State Fair-winning jam out of my pantry to go with a piping hot biscuit. It tasted like childhood summers, sweet raspberries, tart rhubarb, and grandma’s kitchen. Ingredients: Raspberries, Rhubarb, Sugar, Pectin.
Compare this to Smucker’s Seedless Red Raspberry Jam: Red Raspberries, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid. You know why they list the syrup twice, right? So it won’t show up as the first ingredient…
Why have we let the food industry and our culture trick us into thinking that we don’t deserve jam that tastes like summer or apple sauce that tastes like fall? We do! That’s why I’ll be buying all my preserves from local artisans and making my own apple sauce going forward (wish me luck!). We must cling to the simple pleasures that nature provides and not forget how jam used to taste.